The Fateful Hoaxing of Dennis Cooper

The thing that irks me about the cult of Dennis Cooper is that for
all his self-professed and critically-hyped attentiveness to language
and dictional rhythm, the dialogue in his novels is typically about as
convincing as what might be expected from a rejected Degrassi High

Here, picked more or less at random, is an exchange from Cooper’s well-reviewed Klebold & Harris-inspired threnody, My Loose Thread:

‘Fuck,’ Gilman says.  He looks at me, and I can tell he’s upset
that I know.  Then there’s nothing to say, or it’s too complicated for

‘He’s gay’.

‘Oh,’ he says. ‘I hate gay people.’


‘I could go off on the whole thing with the Nazis,’ he says.  They did some really sick things.’

‘They weren’t gay.’

‘Well, that isn’t why they did it,’ he says.  ‘Or those Matthew Shepard guys.  They had girlfriends.’

‘See, this is why I wanted you to come.’

Now I am well aware of the shit excuses that are reflexively
seized upon by Cooper’s critic-apologists. They will sell off such lazily
contrived passages as "minimalist" prose, meant to convey the banality
or "moral vacuity" of anomie-afflicted angst-addled adolescent
inner lives. And they will hasten to insist that Cooper is Gertrude-Steining us
with an "ear for cadence" so finely tuned as to jar against our
complacent, novelistic expectations.

But peel back the palaver, and
any honest reader is left to struggle over a stilted mess of words
that no boy would utter, but which trace neatly back to the politically
sifted, culture-bound prejudices of a middle-aged, American, homosexual
writer.  Who never thought twice about his motives.   

Now that the remaining embers of mystery surrounding the identity of JT LeRoy have been extinguished (short version: it was this chick), it seems that Dennis Cooper has broken his "short lived, self-imposed moratorium on the subject" long enough to comment.  His spin is cheeky and fatuous, which might be expected when you consider that even a modicum of introspective effort would have cut sharp into the cultivated narcissism upon which Cooper’s over-hyped writerly career is predicated.

"It’s pretty bizarre to me," tells Dennis, "to have it confirmed that the JT Leroy character/persona was directly lifted from my work."

I don’t know what to feel about that. I think it’s going to take me a
long time to decide what I feel. At the moment I feel sort of like
Gepetto in some alternate universe Pinocchio story where the ending is
anything but warm and tidy. It’s interesting to wonder who JT Leroy
would have been had Laura phoned, say, Mary Gaitskil or Michael Chabon

He goes on with a few gossipy snits, yet for all his puffed-up, coyly parsed harrumphing, Cooper never disdains to consider the none-too-subtle point of L’affair LeRoy.  He seems oblivious to the design which, once considered, would have snuffed those what-if vagaries about Gaitskil and Chabon before they piffled off his fingertips into the ether of the blogosphere.

To put it more bluntly, as seems to be necessary, Dennis Cooper fails to see that he set himself up as an easy mark, that the joke – and it was a joke – was on him. Was calculated at his expense. Was played directly upon his obtuse, twink-obsessed, self-important, aesthetically-stunted, and ultimately quotidian pederastic fantasies.

Here is a writer who stacks up these unconvincing narratives, always centered around the precocious melodrama of abused and abandoned boyflesh; a writer whose preferred portraiture draws upon a molester’s misapprehended reserve of hopefully-imagined, narrowly eroticised, fag-idealized wish and whim; a writer who packages the whole shebang with a telling lack of empathic depth or human verisimilitude. And when this perfectly typecast literary dynamo comes knocking with a custom-crafted manuscript in tow, here is a writer who can’t even figure out the punch line. 

At least those chumps in Stone Phillips’ parade of predators know when they’ve been caught.